Sunday, January 17, 2010

Truest statement of the week

While many young voters imagined that an Obama presidency would mean a speedy closure of Guantanamo Bay prison, a wind-down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a health care plan that would, at least, provide a government insurance plan to compete with the private sector, they instead are frustrated at the slow pace of change, Vastola and others said.

-- Susan Milligan's "Obama here for Coakley, trailing a diminished aura" (Boston Globe).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Another Sunday. In fact, this is the fifth anniversary. Who would have guessed it could last this long? (Ava and C.I. swear we will not be here five years from now.)

Along with Dallas, the following helped on this edition:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

Truest statement of the week -- We weren't sure there was one and then we saw this article.

Editorial: The Haiti Distraction -- We did the editorial first. Sort of. The NPR link wasn't a part of it, for example. That was it's own story that we wrote later but could never get that article to work. So, at the last minute, we put in a sentence and link. The illustration is by Betty's kids and the only one of their latest illustrations used this edition. We had plans to use three more but the articles those would go with got scrapped.

TV: Counter-programming -- I (Jim) asked Ava and C.I. for two pieces. They said no. I wanted them to do a piece looking back at the last five years. Their argument against included the fact that this wasn't the 5 year anniversary for them. That comes in two weeks. Maybe we'll get the piece I wanted then. In the meantime, they wrote this which is a piece of reporting that you won't want to miss.

Iraq -- Our Iraq piece.

Race for the Senate -- This is a short piece done mainly because our big articles fell apart. We though polish would help them but each time we tried to make it better, it only got worse.

Pig Ritter and the friends who love him -- Yeah, we weren't going to let that slip by without comment.

Five Year Roundtable -- This is the fifth anniversary. It seemed like we should trip down memory lane. C.I. was against it and I see her point now. But the edition called for a piece like this.

The trade off -- Another short piece but you better grasp that this means no prosecution of Bush for his crimes.

Highlights -- Mike, Elaine, Wally, Cedric, Marcia, Stan, Ann, Ruth, Betty, Kat and Rebecca wrote this and we thank them for it.

And that's what we came up with. We'll see you next week and our e-mail address is

-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: The Haiti Distraction

Haiti! Haiti! Haiti!

It's the only subject that matters in the world . . . according to media whores.


Reality: US troops on the ground in Haiti? Not a good thing. Not a great thing. In fact, the less involvement the US government has in Haiti, the better (as anyone who knows the history of Haiti should grasp).

Among those raising the issue of the US troops is Dennis Bernstein on KPFA's Flashpoints Radio (check Friday's show for example) and Michel Chossudovsky (Global Research) -- the latter notes:

The main actors in America's "humanitarian operation" are the Department of Defense, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). (See USAID Speeches: On-The-Record Briefing on the Situation in Haiti, 01/13/10). USAID has also been entrusted in channelling food aid to Haiti, which is distributed by the World Food Program. (See USAID Press Release: USAID to Provide Emergency Food Aid for Haiti Earthquake Victims, January 13, 2010)
The military component of the US mission, however, tends to overshadow the civilian functions of rescuing a desperate and impoverished population. The overall humanitarian operation is not being led by civilian governmental agencies such as FEMA or USAID, but by the Pentagon.

Reality: The networks help no one with their Rush To Disaster coverage nor does Pravda on the Hudson's Amy Goodman.

And if you're not starting to get offended by the 'caring,' grasp that repeat box office failure and liberal hawk George Clooney is prepping a fundraiser -- which will clog up all broadcast channels Friday.

A fund raiser?

Saturday, Bill Van Auken (WSWS) noted that an estimated 300,000 are homeless in Haiti. That is a tragic number but there are other tragic numbers. The same day, Tom Eley (WSWS) explained, "A record 2.82 million homes faced foreclosure foreclosed in 2009, according to RealtyTrac, a web-based firm that tracks and markets foreclosed homes." 2.82 million homes representing millions of people."

Where's their benefit, George Clooney?

Approximately 8 and 1/2 million jobs have been lost in the US recession (Doug Henwood on Doug Henwood's Behind the News, broadcast on KPFA January 16th). Where's the benefit for those workers?

Those rushing to participate in George's gathering better grasp a few things including the rage that's building in America due to the awful economy and financial system robbing people of their jobs and homes. Things were better in the mid-80s but it didn't take long for people to begin asking why Americans were focused on We Are The World-ing across the globe while ignoring the plight of American farmers? Again, that was a better economic climate.

Reality: The slashing of Social Security is being proposed (here for NPR's audio and transcript) and the left slept through that as they continued their drum beats for Haiti.

Everyone was trying to score points on the subject.

US President Barack Obama declared last week, "To the people of Haiti, we say clearly, and with conviction, you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need . . ." If you're an American whose lost their job or lost their home, how does that play to you. Maybe your response is: "Where were you in my family's hour of greatest need?"

The government agency USAID notes:

Total FY 2010 USAID/OFDA Assistance to Haiti for the Earthquake
Total FY 2010 USAID/FFP2 Assistance to Haiti for the Earthquake
Total FY 2010 USAID Humanitarian Assistance to Haiti for the Earthquake

Barack bailed out the Wall St. Crooks, he didn't do a damn thing for those losing their homes or losing their jobs. With all that's going on and all the efforts to chip away at the safety net in the US, you better believe that $86 million (which isn't the full amount the US government is 'giving' or spending) is going to be an extreme sore spot.

And you better grasp that the press has been deployed to Haiti for one reason and one reason only: To distract US audiences from reality. Which is why you had the obscene moment on CNN where the reporter shoved the microphone into the face of a just rescued woman insisting she explain how she felt and how she feels.

Wallow in the misery, float above it all.

And while that distraction takes place, the US Congress hammers out the 'health care' legislation. Did you notice that when the Press Whores presented the public with wall-to-wall suffering, gone were the demands for the health 'reform' discussions to take place in public and be broadcast on CSPAN?

A lot's going on and is being missed as everyone rushes to showcase the suffering. No, the press didn't suddenly develop a humanitarian side. It's all distraction.


Note: Dennis Bernstein and Flashpoints are mentioned above and, to be clear, they cover Haiti all the time. That is their beat. They're not rushing to the 'spectacle' in some modern-day attempt at covering the gladiator fights. Few others can make the same claim.

TV: Counter-programming

It's as though TV past doesn't extend beyond Punky Brewster. How else to explain the inability to counter-program? (There's another way to explain it, we'll get to it.)

NBC is in dire trouble -- and the Winter Olympics aren't going to help -- because instead of attempting to counter-program, they just threw in the towel and gave their last hour of prime time to Jay Leno, Monday through Friday. The network was confessing, "We have no idea how to beat our competitors so we'll just serve up cheap programming that's inexpensive to make and point to how cheap it is and call it a win!"

That was never going to work because NBC owns only a small number of stations and, for the most part, is a content provider. When you don't provide stations with content that want, they will threaten to drop your scheduled shows.

Right now, the Water Cooler Set (TV 'critics') are lining up to bicker about Jay and Conan O'Brien with most deciding that Conan O'Brien is the 'wronged woman' and that they must defend Lady Conan's virtue. This results in a bunch of jokes about and slam on NBC suits. Do they feel pressure? No, they love it because, as usual, the Water Cooler Set never knows what the hell they're talking about.

Jay and Conan aren't the issue. The issue is NBC. As long as the Water Cooler Set continues to pit the two men against each other, NBC execs know they can mislead the shareholders through the Winter Olympics. Focusing on Jay and Conan is like turning Enron into a story of what Ken and Sharon Lay ate for dinner.

NBC is the story. They couldn't program a full slate, they couldn't entertain America and, hate to be the ones to point it out, but that is their job in prime time: Entertain.

They have failed and they have failed repeatedly. It was hilarious to listen to the bald guy chatting with Terry Gross this week as both pretended to know something and neither knew anything. It was NPR's Fresh Air so when it was time to briefly note NBC's failures, the man naturally went to Bionic Woman and pointed to bringing back that show as a problem.

Now we know sexism runs free on Terry Gross' program but The Bionic Woman being remade wasn't a problem. What NBC did to the show was the problem. That involved recasting the pilot, that involved robbing the lead character of her power and making her sappy, that involved adding a man to guide her on each mission. It wasn't The Bionic Woman being remade it was Penelope Pitstop and no one wanted to wait for her to be rescued.

It was amazing to grasp that an alleged critic couldn't grasp that remaking a popular show wasn't the problem, it was how it was remade.

And it's the how that remains the story ignored.

Take Jay Leno. Jay Leno did not say, "Hey, NBC, I want prime time! You're giving it to me!"

NBC approached Leno. NBC pitched to and persuaded a reluctant Leno (part of the persuasion was promising him a full run of his show which, obviously, is now not going to happen). Though The Jay Leno Show got bad ratings, Jay's not the problem. The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien got low ratings as well but Conan's not the problem.

The problem is NBC.

Fred Silverman was a genius at counter-programming for about seven years (ending when he brought SuperTrain and other travesties to NBC). Counter-programming means you look at Sunday night and see what your competitors have? 'Hmmm. They're pulling in a huge number of women. Okay, we'll program the opposite way.' That's an example of counter-programming.

We loathe the Law & Orders. And NBC does as well but for a different reason. We loathe them because they bore us to death. NBC loathes them because, as long running shows, they have higher costs. NBC lucked into Law & Order (in all of its franchises) and it was the only thing that allowed them to compete with CBS' forensic shows.

There was a reason that was effective counter-programming but NBC never grasped it (looking at Dick Wolf's many failed efforts this decade, we're not sure he got it either): The 'humanity factor.' To us, that's laughable because we see nothing but reactionary plot points slapped on to the whatever story they've just ripped from the headlines. But compared to the forensic shows, Law & Order(s) offered a view of humanity -- one not all that dissimilar from what gods provide in Euripides' Hippolytus. (The regular characters are the Greek gods.)

Once upon a time, network execs could figure that out on their own or (more likely) pay someone else to figure it out. NBC execs have made a startling revelation and it has little to do with Jay or Conan. The suits have exposed themselves. They're like Steven Post without Raffles there to guide him in programming decisions.

And that's really a huge problem when your job is programming. You can stink at programming if you're a bartender or a singer or professional athlete or a pilot or whatever. But when your job is programming, you can't afford to stink at it.

Which is why NBC suits are so very relieved that the Water Cooler Set is selling a cat fight between Jay and Conan. It keeps everyone focused on everything but the real problem.


ABC, CBS and Fox execs are loving it too -- especially ABC and Fox. All three networks decided to program towards women on Friday night. Only CBS (with The Ghost Whisperer and Medium) remained standing. Fox has canceled their really bad show (that should have been canceled last May and The Sarah Connor Chronicles should have been kept on the schedule) while ABC nearly killed Ugly Betty (now airing the last hour of prime time on ABC Wednesdays). CBS already had The Ghost Whisperer airing Friday nights and, when they picked up Medium, it was a given Patricia Arquette's show would follow it. So what really was the point of what ABC and Fox programmed? That wasn't counter-programming. What was it?

At the top, we noted the inability to counter-program and how it could be seen as a lack of knowledge and tools but said there was another possibility as well. Why did ABC and Fox 'same-program' against CBS? If you don't stick your neck out, it may not get chopped off.

Meaning, ABC and Fox execs can play their major shareholders for fools and insist, "I don't know why it didn't work. We were doing what CBS did and they were successful." In other words, they'd rather fail in copying than risk anything by originating. NBC execs have a lot to answer for but they're far from alone. A functioning Water Cooler Set might try exploring that.


The Iraq Inquiry continued holding hearings last week and the media star was Tony Blair's spokesperson Alastair Campbell who showed neither remorse nor anything resembling intelligence.

In one of the most illuminating moments of Campbell's testimony, he revealed that the protests against the impending war on February 15, 2003 had an effect . . . To be sure that voices weren't being drowned out, he brought a group of Iraqi exiles to meet with Tony Blair and tell Blair to stand firm and start that war.


The exiles were involved of the planning of the war. They always had a seat at the table.

But for Campbell, the proper response to the protest was to ensure that exiles yet again got to whisper in Tony Blair's big, jug ears.

The death toll continued to mount in Iraq. Sunday 4 Iraqis were reported dead and 7 injured; Monday 13 were reported wounded; Tuesday 4 were reported dead; Wednesday 11 were reported dead and 9 wounded; Thursday 32 reported dead and 11 injured; Friday no reported dead or wounded; Saturday 4 reported dead and 3 reported injured for a total of 55 reported dead and 43 reported injured.

Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, wiped out potential rivals in the elections scheduled for March by playing the Ba'ath card and disallowing them from running. Over 500 politicians have been banned as Little Nouri attempts to fill the shoes of Saddam Hussein.

And the Iraq War is illegal. One country has weighed in. From the Pacifica Evening News (broadcast on KPFA and KPFK) for other governmental bodies and the Iraq War:

John Hamilton: Also today an official Dutch investigation into the Iraq War concluded that the Hague government supported the war without legal backing, it did not fully inform Parliament about its plans. The committee's scathing report -- whose release was broadcast live on state television -- said the US led invasion probably targeted regime change in Iraq but military intervention for this reason was not supported by international law and the Dutch government was aware of that case.

Race for the Senate

An open seat for the US Senate out of Massachusetts has led to a very close race -- much closer than anyone expected.


Martha Coakley won the Democratic Party's primary by standing up against the BigBusinessGiveAway of Obama's (she spoke out against the refusal to cover reproductive rights) only to declare after winning that she would be a sure vote for the BigBusinessGiveAway regardless of what made it into the bill and what didn't. And, by the way, her opponent, he might not stand with Barack Obama on everything but Martha would. She'd defend Barack. Send her to DC and she'll defend Barack!!!!

As a campaign strategy, it's a real loser.

Her first step should be to stop praising Barack Obama. He's not done a damn thing worthy of praise and if she wants to win the primary, she better grasp she needs to energize as many discontented voters as she can. The contented? If they're contented right now, they're are already going to vote for Jane Harman.

When will they ever learn?

Martha Coakley didn't learn. And the more she insisted she wanted to go to DC to defend Barack, the more voters she lost.

In part due to Barry O. Both his faltering image as well as the fact that most voters don't see a president as needing defending. But mainly because of the voters. If you're going to fight for someone, it damn well better be the people voting for you.

Martha didn't get it and made an idiotic (and entitled) statement in a debate that gave her opponent the moment he needed, allowing Scott Brown to step in and say the Senate seat wasn't Ted Kennedy's, it wasn't the Democrats', it was the people's seat.


Martha Coakley's having to fight right now because nobody likes a suck up. Scott's more than made up the difference because he can present as the outsider. The race says a lot about the current political landscape and if Mass. isn't a 'safe' seat for Democrats, it indicates that Dems are going to have spend big and work hard in other Congressional races later this year.

First up is the Martha-Scott matchup. That'll be decided Tuesday. Right now? It's already forcing the press to fess up to just how unpopular Barack is.

Pig Ritter and the friends who love him

Pig Ritter was busted again. Laura Rozen (Politico) explained the arrest was two months old but only now emerging. He was busted for being a sexual predator, the same as his two other busts.


Though it dominated the Thursday news cycle, for some strange reason, his sick f**k buddy, Amy Goodman, failed to mention the news last week.

Why could that be?

Possibly . . .

AmyGoody: Hello.

Britney: Hey. How are you? I love chat rooms!!!! :D

AmyGoody: A/S/L plz.

Britney: Well, I'm 14 y.o. and

AmyGoody: Cam.

Britney: No, "Britney."

AmyGoody: Webcam.

Britney: Yes but it's not hooked up right now. So

AmyGoody: Would you like to see me?

Britney: Maybe later. Did you see Twilight? What do you think of Robert Patterson?

AmyGoody: I could do stuff on my webcam.

Britney: What do you mean stuff?

AmyGoody: I could make you feel read good.

Britney: I have to go.

AmyGoody: Tease!! Friend me! Friend me

Five Year Roundtable

Jim: January 16, 2005, we published our first weekly edition. So this is our five year birthday and we're going to roundtable on that. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); and Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts. Betty's kids did the illustration. This is a rush transcript. None of us expected this to last five years. I'll start the roundtable by yet again singing our "Creeque Alley." Jess, Ty and I were roommates. Dona and Ava were roommates. We all attended college in New York. We were all journalism majors back then. And we were always talking about starting up a website. Ava will say she was largely left out of those talks and only included because she was Dona's roommate and she's probably right. I had a crush on Dona and that was another reason to endlessly pitch, "We should do a website." And we got closer and closer to doing it but what pushed it was that C.I. came to speak at our campus. C.I. was speaking out against the Iraq War. It was a great speech and, after it was over, I was one of many waiting to speak one-on-one. When it was my turn, I said to C.I., "You do The Common Ills." It was so obvious because we all read that website and loved it. And C.I. was speaking the way she wrote. So I was the first person to make the connection and she was taken by surprise and really had nothing to say. I think out of fear of blackmail she agreed when I told her that some friends and I wanted to start a website. So she agreed to help, stating, "I really don't know anything." Which wasn't really true but I called everyone and we all got together at Ty, Jess and my place and started working.


Dona: And started flirting. At least you and I. And it was a pretty easy writing edition. Especially compared to the way things are today. We wanted to do group writing and we did that. And we only had two really obvious problems that night. There was a third but I'll let someone else grab that. Our worst problem was that we had a friend design a template during the edition and it was gorgeous and we all loved it. And then we go to publish our first story and somehow the thing crashes. And we spend forever trying to figure out why and can't get ahold of Paul, our friend who designed it, he's asleep and not answering his phone. I think we spent at least two hours tinkering with the template and finally C.I. and Jess said we needed to pick a standard template from Blogger/Blogspot or we were never going to get anything posted. So that's what we did. That took care of problem one. Problem two was our feature list. We were tossing out ideas and Jim said TV. He said TV plays too large of a part in college life for it to be ignored. Ava and C.I. both were against TV being included. And Ava wants to speak.

Ava: Just to emphasize what we were doing. First off, this 'talk' of doing a website was never concrete or specific. And that was clear as we planned what we'd do that first weekend five years ago. What we wanted to do then we either gave up on or, in many cases, never tried. We were students, our focus was going to be on college life. We did do some good stories on that at the start -- the abortion article, the rehab article and I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting. But there was a desire to be more out there and push the envelope more and TV just didn't seem to fall into that. Back to Dona.

Dona: Yeah, we did have a lot of plans back then. And what's so interesting is that we do push the envelope these days. But not in the way we planned. I'd like to come back to that topic. But the big back-and-forth was over to do TV or not and Jim pretty much decreed it would be done and so it was. Ava and C.I. went along and they had the best lines and ideas when we were writing the TV piece.

Jim: And after two or three reviews, that became Ava and C.I.'s beat because they did better than the rest of us. We were getting e-mails and personal feedback praising this bit or that bit in the TV pieces and it was always Ava and C.I.'s bits. So we smartly turned it over to them. And I cut Dona off to offer that summary. I'm tossing to Ty for five years ago reflections.

Ty: A great deal is made of the fact that Ava was left out -- and she was. It took C.I. standing up for her in that first writing session for Ava to be listened to. But in terms of left out, I also felt kind of left out because Jim was hot for Dona and Dona for him -- it had been obvious for weeks -- and now, during the writing, it was becoming obvious that Jess liked Ava. Now C.I. was leaving Sunday morning and might or might not ever participate again but I truly was feeling like the fifth wheel and that's probably what I remember most.

Jim: Did anyone else grasp that? Everyone's shaking their heads no. Our apologies, Ty. I want to stay with Ty because I think that's enough first writing edition talk. Ty had a secret -- woooh. And Ty went public with it. Talk about that.

Ty: Jim's talking about my being gay. He and Jess knew and most people I had classes with, if I spoke to them at any length, knew because I wasn't hiding it. But we had a few professors who were reading us back then including one who was just adament that I must never say that I was gay -- either online or in real life -- because then I would be the reporter just assigned to the gay stories. I don't know why that would be and it might have been and might not have been but his attitude, the professor's, became more and more homophobic and I became less and less enchanted with journalism. And I was talking to C.I. about it. And she suggested I stay at her 'house' that summer. Put quotes around 'house.' I hadn't seen it and I had no idea it would be that big. But she thought I just needed to get away from that mind set and do something new. She arranged an internship for me with a friend of her's who is a film director. And I had a blast. And I didn't hide that I was gay and it wasn't an issue. I went on to work for another director friend of C.I.'s -- as an intern -- and I just didn't want to leave. I didn't want to go back to campus. I was soured on it and just not going to go back there. And I really worried that would create a crisis. C.I. had participated most weekends by phone. And now here I was going to be another participating by phone. And we had already started bringing in a number of others and it just seemed like my move might unravel everything. But then Ava told me she was staying as well. Which meant Jess was staying.

Jess: Right. Ava hated New York. For a variety of reasons including xenophobia aimed at Latinas. And I didn't get that on our old campus. There were some obvious examples of it and I'd get that and be offended but I didn't get it really until we were out here that summer, the summer Ty is talking about. Ava and I came out here as well. Ava grew up out here, has family out here and it's a different interaction in the Bay Area then back east. And I did see the way Ava, back east, was being set aside or stereotyped. And, to be clear, I'm speaking of our old campus which was predominately Anglo White. And around the end of June, I think, Ava told me she wasn't going back. So I went ahead and made plans to transfer out here as well. That left Jim and Dona back in New York and you two only decided at the last minute. But that was a big shift and I would argue it changes the rhythm of the pieces. That might also be a result of having a little more experience but I can read a piece written when we were NY-based and tell that's where we were just from the way the piece reads.

Jim: And it's an improvement or a loss?

Jess: An improvement.

Jim: So that's one way we've changed. Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and myself live at C.I.'s now. Wally and Betty do as well, but I'm focusing on Third. All of us got our undergraduate degrees. Dona and I went on to graduate school, Jess went on to law school, Ty works in the world of film and Ava's put plans on hold to focus on speaking out against the Iraq War. Huge applause for Ava for doing that, by the way.

Dona: And we're engaged.

Jim: Yes, Dona and I are engaged now. C.I., want to jump in?

C.I.: Yeah, I'll jump into note that we've forgotten someone: Dallas. I don't know when he started, I think it was the first edition, the first weekend. Am I wrong?

Jim: No, you're not. Actually, you called Dallas because of the template problems. When we were still trying to fix it, you called him to see if he had any idea and he logged in to look at it and said something about there were too many codes -- programming codes -- that weren't closed or something. And he put in links that first weekend. We were rushing to get something up -- a detail that's never changed -- and I was groaning about finding the links and inserting them, I was on the phone with Dallas, and he said, he was still logged in and he could pull up the article -- we'd only typed up the one -- and put in links for us. So that was a big help and Dallas has always been a big and huge help. And I'm so sorry for forgetting him. For our first year, a little longer in fact, C.I. was billed as a helper because she didn't want to be a part of Third.

Dona: Jim, you worded that badly. She felt that it was our site and she was happy to help but it was our site and she already had her own.

Jim: Okay, thank you. Rebecca was the first person brought in to help with an edition. Then Kat followed and then Betty. And now days it's just a cast almost as large as The Simpsons. Rebecca?

Rebecca: You had to call on me. Hmm. I wanted to speak later and I'll throw the chronology off here but too bad. Dona became adament that the site needed more than text. She felt that Third needed illustrations and that was a big change. Illustrations not only gave it a visual look but they also helped with the pacing of pieces. In addition, Dona was the one who always advocated for short pieces and would argue that we needed to vary the length of pieces. I believe that was a visual issue as well. Those were two important aspects that took place after the first year. Other than that, it would probably be the weekend writing edition where Jim told Ava and C.I. they were being identified as the writers of the TV piece. They didn't want to be singled out but Jim and others were getting tired of saying, "Thanks but actually that piece was written by . . ."

Jess: And it was getting tired of it. It wasn't being angry or mad about it. I still hear from my family about how great the TV articles are and the only difference now is that they say "Ava and C.I.'s articles" and I can say thank you and be happy. But before they were identified as the writers, the rest of us felt like we were Ringo or something, like people were coming up to us and going, "Ringo, 'Strawberry Fields Forever,' great song! You wrote a great song, Ringo!"

Jim: Kat?

Kat: The thing that surprised me the most was how much discussion there was before any writing took place. It was as if you were all going to do anything but actually write.

Jess: To twist Tom Petty, the writing is the hardest part.

Kat: Yeah. And the editorial was always the worst. I got used to it before a lot of the others were participating. And Betty saw it and couldn't deal with it. But, those were rough.

Jim: Kat's referring to when we were all tired and the editorials would basically be, for the meat of it, C.I. and I knocking the topic around.

Kat: Your wording that nicely.

Jim: I am.

Kat: One thing we did different this edition was the editorial came first and that's never happened before. That's really all I have to say.

Ty: I'm going to kick in the first question from an e-mail right now. Why, Jonah wants to know, have we not returned to our list of what we listened to during the writing? He writes, "I know others find it as interesting as I do and a piece that is just a top ten list should be quick to write. So it would mean an easy article for you guys to turn out." Anyone?

Dona: I'm really the one who nixed it. I just felt like it wasn't that much to begin with and we'd been doing it for so long and I started seeing other people doing it, for example, I saw it at CounterPunch. And when I read it at CounterPunch, I just found it so boring. And I figured that a lot of people probably found it boring here as well.

Jim: Okay. Betty.

Betty: Well at this point the online community was The Common Ills, Rebecca's site, Third and A Winding Road. I wanted to start up my own site but I wanted to know what I was getting into. So I asked if I could call in on the writing editions here and I did that for four to six weeks before I started my own site. Looking back, if I hadn't, I wouldn't have started my own site. It was a lot of fun, whether I was just listening in or listening and participating. But, of course, when I had my own site, it was just me at the keyboard and a lot less fun.

Jim: Do you regret starting a site?

Betty: No. No. Not at all. I'll hit the five year mark this spring and at my worst, and I can be pretty bad as a blogger, I've still managed to put out a Black voice. There are so few online and we're so often overlooked and ignored. We're the ones that don't get linked to. And to know that and to still be able to blog and put out a voice is something I am very pleased with.

Jim: Rebecca was talking about Dona's move to push for illustrations here and we actually started running illustrations before that. Dona's pushing in 2006. But we'd already been reposting Isaiah's comics here starting in 2005. Isaiah's first comic was May 2, 2005. Isaiah does comics for The Common Ills and did that to give the site a visual presence. So we'll turn to Isaiah for evaluation of Third's visuals?

Isaiah: Okay. Betty's kids usually do some interesting illustrations. The new ones that will go up this week are more abstract. I think Third has some strong illustrations and I know there's talk of coming up with a new one for the TV articles but I'll just point out that if that happens there will be a huge backlash because that's been the illustration for over three years now. And before it became the illustration, there were several attempts that I know Jess, for example, wasn't pleased with. I agree with Dona that illustrations were needed and think her championing of the issue took Third to another level.

Jim: Okay, back to pushing the envelope. What Dona and Ava raised earlier. Jess?

Jess: I don't think we got complacent. I think we hit as hard if not harder every week. I think there are a lot of people in the last 12 weeks or so who would, for example, insist that we hit too hard. I'm thinking of one e-mail in particular.

Ava: I'd agree with that and note that our job is not to be a fan club. We're not here to shake pom-poms. The Iraq War was going on when we started and it continues to drag on to this day. Anyone who's walking around with a silly grin on their face is either drugged or willfully stupid. I think we live in outrageous times and, if you're not outraged, it means you've either dropped out or you've become part of the war machine. And, sadly, a large number of Democrats have become just that with their refusal to call out Barack Obama.

Ty: I'm really proud of the fact that you can look at what we were calling out in 2005 and read us today, five years later, and we haven't flip-flopped. We haven't said "night is day!" just because a Democrats in the White House and he's saying "night is day!"

Jim: I'd agree and C.I. and I were talking about something last weekend while we were running that I wanted to bring in here to go out on. We were talking about Beth's "Reflecting on 2009 (Beth)" and I noted how I'd voted for Nader and C.I. said she'd never voted for anyone but a Democrat in a presedential election and didn't think the day would ever come when that wasn't the case. Then 2008 came. So I'm tossing to C.I. to explain what she said.

C.I.: I explained that if I hadn't been doing The Common Ills, I probably would have voted for Barack. If I hadn't been doing The Common Ills, I probably would've whored myself out the way a lot of others did. I would've held my nose and voted for a War Hawk while kidding myself that he wasn't that. But doing the website, it forced me to stick to convictions. And there's an issue of responsibility that comes with doing a website. Is that what you wanted, Jim?

Jim: Yeah. And that's what the five years have been for me -- and I think most of us. The pieces here -- that you enjoy or hate -- force us to think things through, force us to debate and discuss and that's been the best thing about the last five years.

The trade off

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama talked a lot about accountability -- for others. Including George W. Bush. Then he got into the White House and no prosecutions.


He didn't even repeal the illegal, warrantless spying.

The only reason he's even focused on Bush was to trash him. As in, "We inhereted this from . . ."

Like a whiny, little brat constantly late with his homework, Barry insisted his problems were all George W.'s fault.

It just got harder to hope that Bush will ever be prosecuted for War Crimes.

Barack's asked Bush and former president Bill Clinton to spearhead some Haiti efforts.

While we know this means kiss prosecution goodbye, we also mean that Barry can't continue to blame George W. for everything from the deficit to the rate of rainfall in Langley.

It's not a fair trade off, but it's a trade off none the less.


This piece is written by Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Kat of Kat's Korner, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Report, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends, Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. and Wally of The Daily Jot. Unless otherwise noted, we picked all highlights.

"I Hate The War"-- Most requested highlight, C.I. tackles Pig Ritter.

"Harry's done with it all, thank you" -- As Betty points out, Harry Reid was deeply troubled by his racist remarks . . . for about ten seconds.

"The Daily Show and Chuck" and "Chuck sucks" and "heroes (cancel it)" -- Mike and Rebecca on NBC's bad line up.

"THIS JUST IN! BELIEVE IT OR NOT!" and "The jokes" -- Wally and Cedric on the unbelievable.

"A Bully Boy Easter" -- Isaiah dips into the archives.

"Disaster Movie" -- Stan's Friday movie post.

"Tuesday, I'm voting for . . ." and "Big Mass election frenzy" -- Mike on the election the nation's watching.

"THIS JUST IN! PRETTY WORDS!" and "Words have meaning?" -- If people would just love Barack for the sound of his words and not look for meanings, he would be in a happier place.

And Marcia's posts which were strong all week:

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